MORE Scots are going to university than ever before, but the richest pupils are still three times more likely to get a place than the poorest.
New figures show more than 40 per cent of school-leavers went on to higher education, the most on record and more than pursue options such as vocational training or a job.
However, fewer than a quarter of the poorest pupils went to university in 2016/17 compared to 61 per cent from the most affluent neighbourhoods.
The figures were published a week after a leading industrialist claimed parents and teachers “pressurise” pupils to go to university without knowing whether it is the best option for them.
Sir Ian Wood, the former Wood Group chief executive and philanthropist, said the pervasive culture that higher education was “the be all and end all” was damaging to more than half the school population.
Universities Scotland, which represents the sector, welcomed the latest figures, but stressed higher education was “not for everyone”.
A spokesman said: “The News that the proportion of young people going to university is at a record level is positive.
“Young people should follow the path that best fits them, but we are interested in breaking down the very outdated notion that university is for some people and not others.”
The figures from the Scottish Government also showed the attainment gap between rich and poor is narrowing.
This year 41.5 per cent of the poorest pupils secured at least one Higher – up from less than a quarter in 2009/10.
Disadvantaged pupils are still outperformed by those from the richest communities where 83.6 per cent achieved the benchmark – but the gap is closing.
John Swinney, the Education Secretary, said the figures showed “real improvement”.
He said: “These figures are indicative of a high performing education system which is testament to the efforts of school staff and education leaders.
“The action of this government is delivering real improvement in our schools and implementation of reforms to empower schools and school leaders will accelerate this.”
Iain Gray, education spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party, welcomed the progress, but said there should be no complacency from the government.
He added: “A young person from the richest background is almost three times more likely to go to university that a young person from the poorest.”
Overall, the figures showed more than a quarter of school-leavers went into work, with 23 per cent going to college.
For pupils in care the number in positive destinations increased from 40 per cent in 2009/10 to 76 per cent.
The percentage of pupils who took a school meal decreased from 56.9 per cent in 2017 to 55 per cent in 2018.
The proportion of all schools meeting physical education targets in primary and secondary increased from 98 per cent to 99 per cent.
Source : HeraldScotland